thoughts of short story "Opening Day"
The first Saturday in November, opening of deer season in Texas, or at least that’s what Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. thinks. Any avid deer hunter deer hunter knows that opening morning actually starts…the first Monday in January.
It starts that first Monday sort of slow…usually with anger, as the alarm clock seemed to go off exceptionally early. Reality is that you set it 15 minutes later than usual because you knew that you would be tired after the long drive home the night before and unpacking from the last hunting trip of the season.
The meeting at the Kitchen area at the office or the thought of seeing the less fortunate ones that do not ever get to experience these values set forth in us is especially frustrating today… there are those folks with a slightly higher IQ, that elected to take up gardening for a hobby, that are dying to ask what the “great white hunter” bagged this weekend. On the last few Monday mornings, it was easy to answer those sort of questions because there was still a few weekends left and you could use the self gratifying excuse “saw some, but they were too small for me”. What to say today? As you walk through the day, though nothing has been said, you can already hear the smirks. Luckily, the interest in Sunday’s game has their attention. Then of course, there is Spaulding…you know him, as there is a “Spaulding” in every crowd he is the guy that has done everything that you have, just bigger and better.
Even though Spaulding is a fellow hunter, you had almost rather run into the do-gooders or the tree huggers than him. You can hear the annoying shrill of his voice getting louder as he approaches the area. For some reason, the minutes seem to be like pouring cold molasses. Now you have been noticed, and you drop what you were doing to avoid that weary conversation you know you are unable to participate in. Now your efforts to avoid Spaulding have resulted in a clean up job that lands you right in the middle of Spaulding’s conversation. Ten minutes later you make you way with an earful of 160 class bucks that Spaulding let walk because “they were only 1 ½ years old that will be great bucks in a few years”.
As the year passes, the enthusiasm begins to wax. There are those who can’t understand why we go to the woods with such passion to chase a bird in the spring that has little more table value than last year’s freezer-burned calf tongue. Those are beginners! Spring turkey season is in reality just practice for opening day. After all, even die-hard enthusiast like us wouldn’t actually go lay with the ticks and crawl through the cactus for a turkey breast that is all full of bubbles from the spring mating rituals. Oh, one foot note, in addition to preparing for opening day, a spring turkey hunter also has the opportunity of relief from the beginner!
The dog days of summer pass…and pass. Thoughts of days outdoors flood the mind. If you are like me, those days on the Lake are actually preparation for…opening day. While driving the boat, my eyes are constantly scanning the shore for perhaps a glimpse of wildlife and the water line for the tell-tail ripple of a fish. As I wade the knee-deep shallows I am reminded of the similarities of stalking the hills or the cactus flats out West. I try to mask the ripple of every step, sort of like easing my foot down in order to prevent a rock from tumbling. Using the sun to camouflage my shadow as a hunter would use the wind to hide his scent. Carefully spending your time in the sun and watching your children play…..
Then the first of September arrives…a hurried rush to the field to shoot shotgun shells that cost $.24 each at a bird that contains about 1 ounce of fillet…that more resembles the taste of beef liver than chicken! That’s $3.84/ pound…if you don’t miss. If you hit 50%, the cost goes to $7.68/pound…and if you go one out of four…well, you can do the math! It turns out that your favorite restaurant isn’t so expensive! Again, the above analogies would be those of the beginner! Think about the camaraderie and more importantly, honing the skills for …opening day.
Finally it arrives, the first Weekend of October. Oh, if you notice, I never mentioned expense…that was no accident! In case we have some readers that classify as “beginners”, there is no reason to overwhelm them with too much information at one time. Don’t you agree?
When you arrive at the camp house though you miss your family for this opening weekend you are met with that electrical joy of anticipation in the air! As the gear is unloaded and the guns are inspected, the anxious feeling in your stomach remind you of why tomorrow actually started last January. A long night that was short on sleep…partially because of those waves of excitement within…and partially because of the roars of the person in the bunk in the next room.
As you await daylight in that mystical time of the pre-dawn morning. That time when everything takes on the shape of a deer…and of course the shapes are not those of a doe! Daylight arrives in its eminently patient manner. The high hopes of first rays of light revealing a Monster buck are replaced with the reality of the yearly buck and a few does feeding peacefully. As the hunter settles back in his chair, he thinks thoughts that only another outdoorsman could truly understand. All of the thought, time and effort that goes into this day…efforts of time and money that are only rivaled by the likes of a presidential election…yield the sight of a total of 2 deer. Some hunters probably could have seen more deer than that in his neighborhood back home from the comfort of his breakfast table. This sobering reality brings the even more sobering reality to his mind…opening day of deer season. It is not the harvesting of the deer that drives us to the ends of civilization to satisfy our souls…it is the quest to fulfill the desire that has been in mankind sense the beginning of time. That place that is free of life’s debris…the cleanness of air, the purity of the suns beams…that place where man can truly address his Maker…so take time to thank those that brought you to this life…….that’s opening day for me!